President George W. Bush could choose military action over diplomacy and bomb Iran's nuclear facilities next year, political analysts in Washington agree.
"I think he is going to do it," John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a military issues think tank, told AFP.
"They are going to bomb WMD facilities next summer," he added, referring to nuclear facilities Iran says are for peaceful uses and Washington insists are really intended to make nuclear bombs, or weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
"It would be a limited military action to destroy their WMD capabilities" added the analyst, believing a US military invasion of Iran is not on the table.
US journalist Seymour Hersh also said at the weekend that White House hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney were intent on attacking Iran with or without the approval of the US Congress, both houses of which switch from Republican to Democratic control in January after the November 7 legislative elections.
The New Yorker weekly published an article by Hersh saying that one month before the elections, Cheney held a meeting on Iran in which he said the military option would never be discarded.
The White House promptly issued a statement saying the article was "riddled with inaccuracies."
Joseph Cirincione, Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, a Democrat-friendly think tank, also believes the US government could decide to attack Iran.
"It is not realistic but it does not mean we won't do it," he told AFP in an interview. "It is less likely after the elections but it is still very possible."
"If you look at what the administration is doing, it seems that it is going to inevitably lead us to a military conflict," he said, adding that no alternative solution was being sought, including discussions with Iran on Iraq, which could lead to talks on Iran's nuclear program and role in the region.
"Senior members of the (Bush) administration remain seized with the idea that the regime in Iran must be removed," Cirincione said.
"The nuclear program is one reason, but their deeper agenda is this belief that American military power can be used to fundamentally transform the regimes in the Middle East," he added.
With the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, hardliners in the government have lost one of their leading advocates, and his replacement, former former Central Intelligence Agency chief Robert Gates, has in the past favored direct talks with Iran, said the expert.
"But they remain within the administration at the highest level, the office of the vice president, the national security council staff, perhaps the president himself," Cirincione added.
He also accused neoconservative circles of promoting the military option against Tehran.
In a Sunday op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Joshua Muarvchik, resident scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, called for getting tough with Iran.
"We must bomb Iran," he said. "The path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere ... Our options therefore are narrowed to two: we can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it."
Israel has also been pushing Washington to get tough on Iran.
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh did not rule out preventive military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, in a recent interview with the English-language Jerusalem Post.
However, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems unperturbed. On Monday he said Israel was incapable of launching a military attack on Iran's nuclear sites and called Israeli threats "propaganda."
Copyright © 2006 AFP